Maher Arar, in ‘Muslims have nothing to apologize for‘ (Vancouver Sun Sept9) exemplifies the pattern identified in recent studies which show that members of identifiable groups are more inclined to notice criticism of their own group than that of others. On reading a document which included criticisms of various identifiable groups at various levels of harshness, members of each group reportedly identified more criticisms of their own group than others did, and Arar’s conviction that the sins of Muslims are over reported might be matched by that of Catholics about the amount of attention given to priestly sex abuse. But…see
Actually Arar’s first stated concern in the article is that an apology may be predjudicial to one who may have been falsely accused, but in fact, although it would be unfair to condemn any accused person without proof, it is certainly appropriate for a group to condemn a postulated nefarious act or plan – especially if it has been suggested that said act or plan was (or even just might have been) endorsed by that group.
Not only that, but any group (both as individuals and through its leaders) should be expected to apologize, if it ever turns out that the condemnation by that group has proved insufficient to prevent a horrible act from being perpetrated in its name by some of its members.
There are countless examples of this principle being applied to non-Islamic groups.
Did we all not have the right and obligation to condemn and demand apologies for our own government’s failure to prevent the illegal detention and torture of Canadian citizens, for the anglo-Canadian anti-Chinese head tax, and wartime internment of Japanese Canadians, for mainstream christian abuse of aboriginal children, Catholic christian priestly perversion and fundamentalist christian anti-abortion terrorism, for Sikh terrorism and all the rest?
Yes, of course we did! and “Islamic” terrorism is no different.
Whatever group we are in, we owe these apologies because we have some responsibility for the leaders we support or allow, and for their effectiveness in both acting decently themselves and encouraging decency among our members.
Certainly, my responsibility for our government’s failure to protect Maher Arar may be more direct than his for the failings of others who call themselves “Islamic” and I do apologize for what he had to endure and for our failure to end it sooner. We all have an obligation to project what influence we can, and when we fail, to apologize for that failure. This does not always identify us with the perpetrators as Arar suggests but rather separates us from them as we should want to be separated – not out of fear of association with something despised but out of genuine rejection of the crime.
Fortunately, the Canadian Council of Immams seems to be moving in the right direction, leading, I hope, towards an understanding in the Muslim community that to be a decent Muslim requires vocal condemnation of “Islamic” terrorism, just as to be considered a decent Catholic should require vocal condemnation of “Catholic” priestly perversion.
But others of the faith do still give aid and moral support to terrorism.
So get out there Maher, if indeed you are a practicing Muslim, and apologize for the poor leadership in your faith wherever it has failed to prevent either the terrorist acts and intentions of some of its members, or the disgraceful treatment of women by others – not out of “fear of recrimination”, but out of anger at those who have disgraced Islam in the eyes of the world by claiming its name for an abomination. Note added Sept14: perhaps not! (see the comment below)